The very first Medal of Honor was given to a Civil War soldier. He fought on the Union side against the Confederates.
His brave mission was to steal on of the Confederate trains.
The Great Locomotive Chase
Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott was 19 when he volunteered to be a part of the plan to steal a Confederate train. In 1862, it was not looking very good for the Union.
The Confederacy was on the verge of European recognition, and the rest of the country thought that the Army had lost too many troops for the effort they had put out.
Civilian smuggler James J. Andrews pitched a plan to Union Gen. Ormsby Mitchel to sneak behind enemy lines with a handful of volunteers. They would go into Chattanooga and raid a train.
The group rode from Chattanooga to Marietta, Georgia. On the way, two of the men were arrested. Two more overslept and missed the transfer to Big Shanty, a smaller depot.
Staging A Train Jacking
The station at Big Shanty did not have a telegraph station, so they would not be able to relay information to the rest of the depots. The plan was to stay ahead of the reporting so they could cut wires and destroy the track from there to Chattanooga, never being caught.
When the crew of the locomotive, “The General,” left to have a meal, Andrews’ Raiders got on. They proceeded to go north quickly. Three men from the railway tried to chase them.
They were led by Anthony Murphy or William Fuller, both men later claimed they were in charge of the pursuit. Thus began “The Great Locomotive Chase.”
End of a Chase
In seven hours and over 87 miles, the men cut telegraph wires and tore up, staying ahead of those who were chasing them. Unfortunately, they did not gain a lot of ground over the men who were chasing them.
They stopped their water and wood refill short when they were in Tilton, George, since the men were gaining on them. The General ran out of steam.
The Confederates rounded up the men, and many were executed since they were spies. Parrott and some others were left alive.
The raid had a positive impact on the war. Those who made it back to the North, were hailed as heroes. Parrott and five other men were all presented with a Medal of Honor for their efforts.